Featuring a large cast of characters, a gripping storyline, and a couple of odd translations, “Illusion of Gaia” is a solid addition to any SNES library.
Will, a boy with psychic powers (and a pretty lethal flute, but more on that later), finds himself thrust into an adventure that literally spans the globe. He and his friends Lance, Lilly, Eric, and Kara visit various locations ranging from The Great Wall of China to Angkor Wat. Yes, as ridiculous as it may sound, Will regularly beats up monsters on wonders of the world. Saving the world or not, he would be a tour guide’s nightmare.
The gameplay is a combination of Final Fantasy and Zelda. While there is a level-up system, defeating individual monsters offers no experience. Will must clear the entire area of monsters in order to earn a permanent boost in strength, defense, and HP. If players do not decide to hunt down every monster, the game will eventually become nigh-impossible to beat, no matter how good players’ reflexes are. Often, players will only have one shot to do this – progressing in the story makes players unable to return to an area. In order to defeat these monsters, Will has access to three different warriors: the Dark Knight Freedan and Shadow, a creature able to traverse through walls in liquid form.
With Freedan and Shadow, combat is perfectly normal. Freedan has a large two-handed sword and Shadow’s arm becomes a blade to attack enemies with. Will, on the other hand, has a flute. A flute that he smacks enemies with. This examiner has no idea what that flute is made of, but throughout the course of the game it comes into contact with creatures made out of stone, lava, and bone. Even more ridiculous is the fact that Will can deflect attacks with it. While all three characters are able to block most incoming projectiles, Will decides to do it by spinning his flute. Of course that flute must be unplayable, right?
Wrong. Throughout the game, Will memorizes songs to play at key points in the story. While Will learns most of them automatically, he sometimes has to do asinine things to earn them. For example, in order to cure his friend’s amnesia, Will has to storm into a mine where there are hundreds of monsters, including giant lizardmen with barbaric whips and eye monsters who spit lasers at him, to save four slaves – one of whom gives Will the song as a gift for saving them.
Along with standard attacks, Will, Freedan, and Shadow have access to a unique move-set. Freedan can charge his sword to unleash a variety of offensive attacks, Will can slide and slam his body into walls to uncover new areas to explore, and Shadow is able to fall through floors to access lower levels.
“Illusion of Gaia,” though packaged for a younger gamer, offers quite a lot of existentialism and philosophy. On their adventure, Will and co. often touch on issues like abuse of power, slavery, and human nature. While it may seem like a game designed for young gamers, even older ones will appreciate it for the questions it brings up.
Overall, “Illusion of Gaia” is just one of those titles that gamers have to experience. Though the game is frequently requested to be added to Wii’s Virtual Console, it has not been. The only opportunity for gamers to give “Illusion of Gaia” a shot is by playing the actual cartridge. Remember, until that box is opened, the game is both inside and not inside.